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Picture Rocks Cooling Heating & Plumbing Blog

This Is One of the Most Common AC Problems


While it’s possible to encounter a truly odd air conditioner issue—a nest of snakes in the outdoor unit, perhaps!—in general, AC technicians see the same handful of problems over and over. As a homeowner, if you can spot these problems when they start, you can get repairs sooner and avoid the major complications that occur when air conditioners are forced to run even though they’re struggling. One common symptom of serious AC problems that you should keep an eye (or ear) out for is short cycling. Here’s what you need to know.

The Cooling Cycle

When your thermostat registers that your home has gotten a touch too warm, it signals the compressor to start up. This component, housed in the outdoor unit, pressurizes the refrigerant and forces it through the coils. In the indoor evaporator coils, heat is absorbed from the air of your home. The refrigerant then flows toward the outdoor unit, where it releases that heat as it passes through the condenser coils. Once enough heat has been absorbed from your home, the thermostat signals the compressor to shut down. The system rests until the temperature rises enough to trigger it to start again. The time from one start-up to the next should be fifteen minutes or more.

Short Cycling

If the compressor gets the signal to start up, but then gets another signal to shut down again almost immediately, your house won’t have cooled down much in that time. This means that, within moments, the compressor will receive the signal to start up again. If you notice the cooling cycle starting up every three or five minutes instead of every fifteen or twenty, your air conditioner is experiencing short cycling. But why?

Causes of Short Cycling

Essentially, something is shutting the system down before it really gets going. This could be because the thermostat is giving inaccurate signals and needs to be recalibrated. It could be that the blower fan motor is overheating, which causes the limit switch to shut the system down as a safety precaution. It could even be that the limit switch itself is faulty, sending the signal to shut down when it’s not necessary. But whatever the cause, you need professional help with your air conditioning in Tucson, AZ, and you need it promptly. 

Effects of Short Cycling

Why is this a serious problem that requires prompt repair? Because the last thing you want to do to your air conditioner is put excess strain on the compressor. If the AC system were a person, the compressor would be the heart. Without it, all the other parts are still in place, but it’s not really an air conditioner at all anymore. And in addition to being so critical to the function of the unit, it is also the most expensive component.

If your air conditioner is no longer very new, you’d probably be better off investing in a whole new system rather than replacing the compressor. And what strains the compressor the most is the beginning of the cooling cycle, when it starts up. Doing that five times as frequently is much more than it’s designed to handle. 

If you’re concerned about the length of your air conditioner’s cooling cycle, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Contact Picture Rocks Cooling, Heating & Plumbing today to schedule an appointment with our professionals.

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